Socialist paediatrician Michelle Bachelet, who suffered prison, torture and exile under Chile’s military dictatorship, was sworn in as the nation’s first female president today.
Bachelet took her oath before Senate President Eduardo Frei at the crowded Hall of Honour of Chile’s Congress in this port city near Santiago.
The 54-year-old president appeared relaxed, and waved her right hand in response to greetings from some people in the stands.
She smiled broadly when someone shouted, “We love you, Michelle!”
Outgoing President Ricardo Lagos then removed the white, red and blue presidential sash he was wearing and handed it to Frei, who placed it on Bachelet.
More than 1,000 guests attended the ceremony, including the presidents of Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, Peru and Venezuela, and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
After a brief meeting with Bolivian President Evo Morales, Ms Rice told Chile’s state television that Bachelet’s inauguration was “a wonderful day for Chile.”
Bachelet swore in her 20-member Cabinet of 10 men and 10 women. She has promised to have equal numbers of men and women in some 300 decision-making posts.
Bachelet is the daughter of an air force general who was tortured and died in prison for opposing the 1973 military coup led by Gen. Augusto Pinochet.
Then a 22-year-old medical student, she herself was briefly imprisoned and tortured along with her mother before being forced into exile.